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Liberty?
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For example, my wife hasn't driven on the interstates since we moved to California almost 20 years ago. I seldom ever use an interstate. I've even abondoned using the local state highways because the traffic on them has been so heavy and travel so slow ever since Orange County embarked on a massive expansion program paid for by increased sales taxes. These highways are miserable to use almost any hour of the day or night around the clock, during the day because of normal traffic and construction, and at night because they close most of the lanes. The back roads are much faster than using the highways in Orange County right now. But still, these are state roads and not interstates.

So, even though my wife never uses an interstate and it is very rare that I ever use one. we still pay a lot for them in every gallon of gas that we buy. How many of you are in the same situation? Those of you that live near interstates as I did when I lived in Boston, just come to assume that use of the interstates is universal and part of our everyday transportation needs. For those of you that believe that, pull out a map of the U.S. interstate system someday and look at all that space between the routes. There are a lot of people that live between those lines that almost never use an interstate! Even in areas that look like they are filled with interstates like California, how many people must there be like my wife and I who also seldom ever use one?

From this, you can see that the federal gas tax is not a "use" tax at all as libertarians claim, but a direct transfer of wealth which libertarians highly oppose!

If the only people that ever paid for the interstates were people that used them, the cost to them would be far greater than it is today. I am in favor of making all of the interstates toll roads, but this must be done with the removal of all federal gasoline taxes and a prohibition on any future federal gasoline taxes. You know the government and you know they'd like to have their cake and eat it too. They'd like the money from both the tolls and from the federal gas tax if they could have it.

Everyone would have a much better feel for just what the interstates cost to use if all the cost of the interstates were raised via tolls on those roads. Unlike the federal gas tax, tolls on the interstates could be made to be true "use" taxes. I would also be in favor of the elimination of all other subsidies to the interstates from general federal revenues. All the money for interstates including repairs, rebuilding and expansion should come out of these tolls. Even the cost of patrolling these roads by state police should come out of those tolls.

The libertarians would then have a situation that comes as close as possible to what they consider a fair tax, a tax that is paid strictly by the people that use the service and is charged to those people in proportion to how much they use the service. The only further step that would please libertarians is to completely take the government out of it and have private companies own and operate the interstates. I'm completely in favor of this so long as the federal government contributes nothing at all towards the operation, maintenance, or construction of any further interstates. All costs and profits have to be covered by the tolls.

I think drivers will be surprised to find that the interstates cost far more to use than they have ever dreamed. Part of the cost of the interstates is hidden in the federal taxes on every gallon of gasoline, most of which gallons are never used on the interstates. Thus, the users of the interstates are heavily subsidized many times over by those who don't use them. There is also a tremendous amount of general revenues that go into the interstate system that most people are not aware of. On top of that, there are number of hidden costs picked up by state, county and city governments such as police patrol of the roads, car fires, emergency response to accidents on the roads, etc.

California is doing a little experimenting in this area right now. Because of soaring construction costs, they have authorized the construction of a number of new lanes and roads by private companies who are then allowed to recoup the cost of construction, operation, and profits over the next several decades through tolls. Most people are having difficulty imagining why these tolls are so high. But, the private companies are reporting useage well below expected and below the cost of amortizing the construction on most of the roads. I think this is a hint that people just don't know what it is costing them indirectly through all sorts of taxes to use the interstates.


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